Loading...

On the Value of Vulnerability

Friday, March 27, 2015

by Nick Charney RSS / cpsrenewalFacebook / cpsrenewalLinkedIn / Nick Charneytwitter / nickcharneygovloop / nickcharneyGoogle+ / nickcharney

Whether or not you read it earlier this week, Kent laid a lot on the line when he posted I don't have it all together. Prior to posting it he sent me a draft and asked if I thought it was appropriate to share, and if so, to share on this medium. To which I replied:

No one has it all together. We can trade notes some time. Showing others that you are vulnerable isn't easy but in my experience it usually ends up helping create rapport and trust. I'll leave the decision to post it to you, but I wouldn't hold it back if I were in your shoes.

I'm really glad he decided to share it.

I'm glad he shared it because he is right about our collective capacity for selective disclosure. When I'm at my most irreverent (on a stage or at the pub) I'm quick to throw social media en masse under the bus as a complete and utter waste time and effort; a never-ending stream of carefully curated lies we tell about ourselves while disdainfully flicking a thumb up as we scroll through the lies of others, somehow oblivious that others are doing the same to us.

He's right about falling behind too. I fall behind most on things I want to read and people I want to talk to. The nice thing about this one is that the things to read will still be there when you finally get back to them, and if you are lucky and have already invested in those people you want to talk to, they will be too.

Screwing up at work? Been there.

Self-doubt? Yup.

Mental health issues. Check.

Hell, I don't have it all together either. Neither do most of the folks I know and trust. Not everyone is comfortable with that imperfect state of affairs but they are working on being more comfortable with it every day. That's life.

There's a value in vulnerability that is worth preserving

While I have no empirical evidence other than my lived experience, I've always been of the view that showing vulnerability can be a catalyst for trust (see: Scheming Virtuously). Perhaps this is because we are often willing to put ourselves in the most vulnerable positions with those whom we trust. People seem to understand that sharing our secrets, our fears, and our tenderest of moments would be impossible without the level of trust borne out of vulnerability.

But I also get the sense that there is something that links vulnerability, trust and leadership. I don't have time to dive into the literature right now and obviously one ought to carefully consider the when, why and how of showing vulnerability in the workplace, but on balance I feel like we (as a society and a culture) undervalue vulnerability.